For a government that began the Parliament session on a confident and positive note, the last fortnight has been a trying — and embarrassing — one, with the Opposition seizing the initiative from the ruling dispensation and putting its Lok Sabha defeat behind it.
Starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Ministers SM Krishna (External Affairs), CP Joshi (Rural Development), BK Handique (Mining), Anand Sharma (Commerce and Industry) and Veerappa Moily (Law and Justice), among others, found themselves at the receiving end of the Opposition’s tirade.
That a section in the Congress itself had its own reservations on some of the issues involved only added to the party’s discomfiture.
At heart were questions of a communication gap between the party and government, and between the government and the Opposition as well as the failure of ministers to do their homework and the unwanted display of arrogance by some of them. But first a recap.
The Indo-Pak joint statement that delinked action against terror from the composite dialogue and talked about Balochistan had created a furore in the Opposition and unease in the Congress.
The Opposition took on External Affairs Minister SM Krishna who fumbled for an answer on the issue. Even Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could not address their concerns when he participated in the debate.
A similar sentiment became evident on Monday when Law Minister Veerappa Moily suffered the humiliation of having to withdraw the introduction of the judges assets’ bill in the Rajya Sabha.
On July 21, fumbling and mumbling Mines Minister BK Handique became a subject of amusement when he repeatedly failed in answering questions relating to his Ministry in the Lok Sabha.
Handique’s lack of preparation was matched by CP Joshi’s lack of parliamentary decorum on Friday. The Minister’s taunt — that the BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh did not have the “himmat” to pay the minimum wage for NREGA — saw the BJP accusing him of showing disrespect to the country’s federal character. Mukherjee had to hastily apologise for his colleague’s faux pas.
Again in Lok Sabha, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s valiant defence of the government over the Opposition’s allegations of a rice scandal led to a slinging match.